Baitings Reservoir, Blackwood Edge, Dog Hill and Rishworth Moor

A refreshing uplands walk across some of the most isolated moors in the South Pennines. The walk from Blackwood Common to Dog Hill and then round to Warm Withens Hill is simply wonderful. The approach to the moor and descent afterwards are also very pleasant.

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Statistics and Files
Start: Baitings Reservoir Distance: 7.9 miles (12.7 km) Climbing: 345 metres
Grid Ref: SE011191 Time: 4 hours Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Ripponden
Start: Baitings Reservoir Distance: 7.9 miles (12.7 km)
Grid Ref: SE011191 Time: 4 hours
Climbing: 345 metres Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: It was great to get outdoors and do a walk. October was almost over and I had not been out for a decent stretch of the legs since the last day of September when, after walking 13 miles my right foot had swollen so badly that I was reduced to crawling about the house for the first time since I was a toddler. The following week, after hospital diagnosis and with the aid of crutches I set about my rehabilitation and the week after I returned the crutches to hospital and then I took short walks into town and through the park lands of Harrogate to evaluate the recovery of my foot. Though it still ached after the exercise it did not deteriorate afterwards and so four weeks and one day after that late September walk I took to the hills once again. I felt I was ready for a good walk; I was certainly itching to do one. The remaining question was "Where shall I go?" In my period of incapacity I had been promising myself to explore more of the South Pennines so I made the journey from home to the Pennine moors between Halifax and Rochdale to honour that promise.

Looking from Baitings Reservoir to Ryburn ReservoirLooking from Baitings Reservoir to Ryburn Reservoir
Farm lane at Higher WormaldFarm lane at Higher Wormald

I arrived and parked up in Baitings Reservoir car park, just of the A58 Halifax to Rochdale road on a beautiful sunny Autumnal day. It was early, before 9.00am but already the weakening seasonal sun was doing its work to warm up the land and wake the countryside from lethargic slumber. Some local people were walking their dogs across the road crossing the reservoir dam and to one lady with two Labradors I offered "good morning, it is such a lovely day to be out and about" pleasantry. "Indeed it is" she replied. The Labradors waved their tails enthusiastically during the brief conversation though I was sure they have heard it all before and probably more often than not on their morning exercise walks. I continued on across the dam and kept on a straight course beyond Baitings Reservoir to follow a lane to Higher Wormald Farm. In the grounds of the farm I met another dog, this one tethered and fortunately so. This one was a most unfriendly collie, most likely trained to keep walkers from lingering in the grounds of the farm. I stuck to the path and as I did so to make my way out of the farm grounds I turned to the collie and sarcastically wished the argumentative unfriendly beast a good day. From Higher Wormald I followed a series of dry stone walled bridleways, hedged lanes and field sides, always on good tracks to more farms and all friendlier in feel than the first as I made my way eastwards to the south tip of Ryburn Reservoir.

Woodland at Ryburn ReservoirWoodland at Ryburn Reservoir
Ryburn ReservoirRyburn Reservoir

It was lovely walking across the patchwork of pathways between Baitings Reservoir and Ryburn Reservoir, all of it typical pastoral upland Yorkshire where people get on with their daily life as if passing strangers are the norm. So unlike the city. as well as meeting the lady with the Labradors on the dam of Baitings Reservoir I met a worker in a mini digger at the next farm who was starting his day of work. We raided hands and waved good day to each other. At the very next farmstead I passed a mature gentleman in his garden. "Good day" he said. "Good morning" I replied. After that meeting I followed a field side down to a wood which shielded the south west edge of Ryburn Reservoir. After walking through the small wood I reached a footbridge over Hutch Brook and stood on the bridge for a while to take a breath while enjoying the view of Ryburn Reservoir which had opened out for me to fully enjoy. It was a memorable short pause. Afterwards I climbed from the reservoir to New Gate and then I turned left to follow a lane to Upper Cockcroft Farm. Here I met another local who helped me find the right path towards Pike Law. On the way to Pike Law I then met another lady who was with a young girl. She too made a point of making conversation saying "Good morning, it such a lovely day and how is it not warm for late October". Indeed it was a so I replied with agreement. I added "And therefore the perfect day for a moor top walk. I am heading up to Rishworth Moor having never been before". "Good for you" she said. On leaving the two generations of ladies behind I climbed the steep winding road to Pike Law from where I left the road to walk straight up through the grounds of Pike Law and then though a gate into a field which led me upwards and still quite steeply to Pike End. I had reached the moor.

On to the moor at Pike EndOn to the moor at Pike End
Blackwood CommonBlackwood Common

It was a great feeling when I reached the open moor. My first explorations of moor had been as a youngster when my parents had taken me and my brothers for day trips to the North York Moors of the Osmotherley area. While younger children had played in and around the relative security of paddling pool shallow Cod Beck I would climb up from the banks of the beck on to the wilds of Scarth Wood moor to the west and Whorlton Moor to the east. First the outings were short scouting missions but with the experience of growing up and the knowledge of the earlier attempts behind me the explorations would extend further onto the moor. The excitement of those early missions and the thrill of being all alone out in the wild has never left me and so I fairly bounced along the edge of the moor from Pike End towards Blackwood Common. As I walked I was attracted to the exposed rock of a disused quarry which the path led me directly towards and which I soon reached. It was small, not really industrial and probably used for very local building and dry stone walling. It was one of a number of similar small quarries, all now disused and all encircling the edge of the moor. From the quarry I climbed to the moor top at Blackwood Edge. As I made the climb I began to sense a humming noise which as I continued on increased in audibility to a constant unerring drone.

Shelter on Blackwood Edge RoadShelter on Blackwood Edge Road
Looking south west to the M62Looking south west to the M62

I fathomed what the noise was. When researching for the walk I had read that from the Blackwood Edge Road path I would be able to see a four mile stretch of the M62 from the Saddleworth Road bridge near Scammonden in the east to the Pennine Way footbridge near junction 22 of the motorway in the west. I was n the Blackwood Edge Road path and as I walked westwards along it in the direction of Dog Hill I watched traffic streaming in both directions across the Pennine Divide. Those going west were crossing into Lancashire and those going east were crossing into Yorkshire. Here it is a 24/7 event. I recalled the days I had to make that journey, some not too long ago. As I did so I had the smug thought that in the future such journeys would be my own choice and not dictated through working commitment. One of the biggest joys of early retirement for me was not having to commute motorways. Thinking back to my walk and I continued my leisurely commute across the moor. I followed the Blackwood Edge Road path to a shelter which was a little worse for wear but lipped high enough on the west face for people to snuggle in when faced with a westerly gale. Then I left the path to climb the moor to Dog Hill.

Dog HillDog Hill
Great moorland walkingGreat moorland walking

The path along Blackwood Edge Road skirts past the south side of Dog Hill and many walkers will continue along the defined path, not bothering to take the yomping off-route detour to the summit. Plenty of walkers will do though, being drawn to make the extra effort in order to touch the trig point on the top of the hill. Trig points, properly known as triangulation stations and also known as a triangulation pillars, trigonometrical stations, trigonometrical points, trig stations and trig beacons are iconic draws to lots of walkers. Personally I will detour a short distance to them but not take excessive diversions for the sake of it. The one on Dog Hill was within easy reach from the path though and so after a five minute beeline up the moor and through a few minor peat hags I spotted the trig point. A couple of minutes later I was there, on the summit of Dog Hill and rewarded with a wonderful all-round panorama. Five miles distant in the north I could clearly make out the huge column of Stoodley Pike. Turning to the east I could see all the way back to Ryburn from where I had come and to Halifax beyond. By keeping turning my head clockwise I once again viewed the huge Saddleworth Road bridge over the M62, the part of the M62 which parts around Stott Hall Farm, the four mile stretch to the Pennine Way footbridge and finally to the near west I could see Green Withens Reservoir which was my next destination.

Green Withens ReservoirGreen Withens Reservoir
Blackstone Edge MoorBlackstone Edge Moor

I had planned to walk directly down Dog Hill back to the Blackwood Edge Road path and then follow it to south east of Green Withens Reservoir before skirting the west side of Withens Edge to Rishworth Drain. However, as I tracked down Dog Hill I came across a good sheep trod which was as good as a man-made path. I followed the sheep trod around the topmost contours of Withens Edge and by doing so I saved myself about 50 metres of descent and re-ascent. (Note - the track files for download follow the course I planned to take back from Dog Hill to and along Blackwood Edge Road. They do not follow my detour following the sheep trod). As I walked around the edge of Withens Edge I noticed four people on the path near Green Withens Reservoir looking up the moor to me. I complimented their attention by looking down towards them. I looked at them again and again on sections of my walk around the edge and worked out they were making path repairs. My appearance on the horizon must have given them a break from their task. I guess one will have said to the others something on the lines of "Where did that walker come from. There is no path in that direction?". And perhaps one of them replied "Oh yeah, strange that". I continued around the top of Withens Edge, changing my direction of travel from west to north as I did so. I left my walk on one of the best sheep trods I have ever followed to follow the proper path to Rishworth Drain. At the drain I left the path which headed further north and west across the impressive expanse of Blackstone Edge Moor by turning north-east.

Rishworth MoorRishworth Moor
Time for lunchTime for lunch

The path north-east led me to Warm Withens Hill where I did a full half circle turn to walk south-east on to Rishworth Moor. Gone now was the droning sound of traffic on the M62 as the heights of the moor shielded all sound from it. The quiet gave me the feeling of being in a huge space of nothing, just me and the mass of the moor. It was sublime. After about 20 minutes of walking in the still I captured fresh images of Baitings Reservoir in the valley below. I was heading back now but there was still much more moor walking to enjoy. A gentleman with two Alsatians passed me while I paused to take a photograph. All three enjoying the exercise. A solitary lady walker approached me from the opposite direction. On meeting we spontaneously and almost simultaneously said "Good day" to each other. Further on I reached a group of retired gentlemen sitting on the moor and enjoying the midday sunshine while eating their lunch. They greeted me too. Everyone was being extremely pleasant to each other on the moors this day. and why not, it was wonderful weather, a perfect day for being outdoors. And with winter not too far away, perhaps some were taking one of the last opportunities for a late seasonal walk on the moors.

Dry stone wall near Mires Delph QuarryDry stone wall near Mires Delph Quarry
Back o'th HeightBack o'th Height

Perhaps it was by meeting people on the later sections of my moorland circular at regular intervals which caused it to happen but happen it did. I had descended from Rishworth Moor to be near disused Mires Delph Quarry without noticing. One and a half miles distance and half an hour of time had elapsed and I was off the moor. A pang of regret came to mind but also a feeling of relief. I had to remind myself this was a recovery walk and that my foot had not been tested since the injury at the end of the previous month. It would be good to finish safely and without strain. Fortunately I felt good and so did the foot. It was beginning to ache but I felt it was a strong recovery-based ache if there is such a thing. I had the feeling that my foot was getting stronger, not weaker. With that reassurance in the mind I continued down Back o'th Height from the moor.

The way backThe way back
Baitings ReservoirBaitings Reservoir

From Back o'th Height I followed the access road back to Higher Wormald but not to the part of the farm where the sulking collie on a chain was waiting for another snarl. I tracked down the lane from where I had come earlier to the dam of Baitings Reservoir. I did not cross the dam immediately though, instead deciding to take the path provided by Yorkshire Water to a copse beside the south side of the reservoir. Here, in the wood I found a convenient spot to sit down and enjoy my lunch. It was approaching 1.00 pm and I had been walking for around four hours. 'Dum de dum, it's one o'clock and time for lunch' I thought and sat down to enjoy my snack. I thought about my wonderful walk around Blackwood Edge, to Dog Hill, around Withens Edge, to Warm Withens Hill, on to Rishworth Moor and back to Baitings Reservoir as I ate. It was good.

I was very impressed with this exceptional walk on the moors bordering Yorkshire and Lancashire.

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